Theme Word 2023: Patience

The new year is here (2023!) so once again it’s time for me to choose a new theme word to help guide me through the year. Do you do something like this? Some people prefer selecting an anchor verse or word.

Focusing on an over-arching word—a quality, an attitude, or an action—can give me direction all year long and also helps me focus on more fully implementing that new word in my life. It’s a practice I highly recommend. I can honestly say it has benefited me time and again.

This year God directed me to the word patience. Yes, I know most people would be afraid to choose this word for fear of what circumstances God might bring into their lives to give them opportunities to practice patience. But the truth is, God has already placed me in a situation that will require great patience for the forseeable future—and patience is not something that usually comes naturally for me.

Thank goodness patience is a fruit of the Spirit. That means as a child of God, the Holy Spirit who is within me will help me grow in patience as I ask him, yield to him, and depend on him to empower me.

I know it won’t be easy, though, because as long as I’m on this side of heaven, I also have my old sin nature waiting to rise up and war against the refining work the Lord is doing in my life. This makes me doubly thankful for God’s promise to all of us to one day complete the good work he begins in us (Philippians 1:6).

Is there a good work God wants to do in your life this year—a word that he’s led you to claim as your theme word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear about it so I can encourage you along the way. As for me, I’ll be over here patiently growing in patience—I hope!

being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,” Colossians 1:11 NIV

*What is your theme word or anchor verse for 2023?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early February. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free! Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Photo by Girish Dalvi on Unsplash

Fall Wedding Idea: Caramel Apple Favors!

Mother of the Bride, are you and your daughter still looking for a favor idea for her upcoming fall wedding? If so, you came to the right place today—and just in time, too, since there’s no time to spare at this point, right?

Caramel apples can provide the perfect fun and yummy treat for your guests to take home—or eat right there at the party if they’re so inclined. As long as they’re wrapped in cellophane (as pictured above), they’ll stay mess-free until your happy apple-eaters decide to dig in.

Lots of fun options are possible with caramel apples.  Add a little pizzazz by rolling the apples in variety of toppings after they are dipped. Sprinkles, nuts, candy-pieces, coconut—whatever strikes the fancy of your bride-to-be and her sweetheart. They’ll be easier to wrap, too, if they’re dipped in something other than just caramel. I’ve even seen plain apples sitting atop a container of caramel and then wrapped together in cellophane. Tie the bags off with pretty color-appropriate ribbon and you’re set!

Nothing says a fall party like caramel apples, MOB, so why not suggest it to your daughter? Have fun at your fall wedding!

*You might also like to read Summer or Fall Wedding Favor Idea: Jars of Honey, Edible Favors—Yes, Please!, Sculpted Pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns for Fall Wedding Decor, and Fall Wedding Bouquet Idea.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early November. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.) *Temporary problem with Life Notes sign-up. To sign up, just contact me.

*Flickr photo by moralesmegan25Creative Commons License

Guest Post by James Watkins: Why? Why? Why?

A three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and an SUV, the three-ton vehicle is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals—Just take my hand, Johnnie!”

And on it goes—right into adulthood!

Why didn’t God heal my friend?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do I still have acne at 60?

But like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are often in the form of a question.

 

What can I know?

I can know the truth of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).

For instance, our group health insurance had very few maternity benefits, but had great “major medical” coverage. At the birth of our first child, my wife had complications and spent five days in Intensive Care. But, because the birth was now “major medical,” every penny of our daughter’s birth was covered. Sitting in ICU for five days waiting to know if my wife was going live or die was not good, but it did work for good.

However, it took me nearly thirty years to realize that Romans 8:28’s “purpose” is revealed in the following—and usually ignored—verse:

. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . . .

I may never know the answer to why, but I can know what is the purpose to which God is working all for our good. To be like Jesus! If you look for it, you’ll find throughout the New Testament. For instance:

 

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b, author’s emphasis).

 

How can I grow?

Jesus promises . . .

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:1, 4-5 NLT).

Our spiritual lives depend on this intimate connection with Christ. His life flows into and through us causing us to become organically one with his character. That connection is strengthened through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. And suffering!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT, author’s emphasis).

When I think back to my “successful” years—award-winning author and editor, world-traveling conference speaker, denominational executive, and co-pastor of a growing church—I certainly didn’t resemble the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my “failure” years—years between book contracts, estranged relationships, being voted out of a church, and having to borrow money to make a living writing and speaking—that I have come to derive my self-identity and self-worth from simply being a loved child of God.

Who can I show?

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (NLT).

I now believe that God is more than willing to answer those questions and how they relate to living a life conformed to the image of His Son. Even why I still suffer from acne!

From God, I Don’t Understand, Copyright 2017, 2019 James N. Watkins. Available at Amazon.

Jim is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as consulting in book development. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Small Seeds, Big Results

“‘. . . a mustard seed . . . the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’” Mark 4:31-32 NIV

We’ve all heard the phrase “little but mighty.” These well-known words are an apt description for many people and situations, and they can certainly be applied to seeds and planting too.

In scripture, Jesus used the example of the mustard seed to show how something great—something big—can come from the smallest of seeds when planted. The humble little mustard seed can grow until it is one day large enough to provide shade for birds. What a perfect example of how something little can become something mighty.

Small seeds that yield big results are not only seen in the world of gardening and farming, though. They can be witnessed in finances, education, in developing talents and abilities, in building self-confidence, and in spiritual transformation as well as many other things.

Whenever and wherever seeds are planted, growth—yes, miracles—are bound to happen. A little boy who’s given a toy microscope as a child grows up to become a research scientist. A little girl receives a set of colored pencils for her birthday and one day opens her own graphic design business. A troubled teen accepts a New Testament during a Gideon distribution at school and later that year asks Jesus to be his Savior. Yes, planted seeds become miracles.

What small seeds can we plant in the coming days, weeks, and months? It might be as simple as an encouraging word to a struggling soul or a verse of scripture shared on social media. Perhaps we could give a scholarship to a camp, conference, or event that will be life-changing for the recipient. The possibilities are limitless.

Let’s do it. Let’s plant small seeds that could become mighty things. Let’s provide shade—or nourishment or inspiration or any number of other things that someone somewhere needs today. Let’s be part of a miracle!

I planted the seed . . . but God has been making it grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:6 NIV

*What seeds have been planted in your life that have become mighty things?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Kapitalist63, Creative Commons License

Perfect Spring or Summer Wedding Cake—Chocolate Drips and Berries!

Mother of the Bride, is your daughter looking for a spring or summer wedding cake idea? If she’s a fan of berries and chocolate, the cake idea I’m showing you today might be just strike her chocolate-berry-loving fancy!

Spring or summer is the perfect time to feature a cake garnished with fresh berries and accented with drips of chocolatey goodness. Strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries against a dreamy white-frosting background look so fresh and pretty, so perfectly seasonal. Add the chocolate dripping down each layer of the cake and my, oh my, what could be more perfect? Well, just one thing—add the chocolate-covered berries you see scattered throughout as a yum, yum, yummy finishing touch.

Of course, what’s inside is anybody’s guess, but that will be just one more fun decision for your sweet girl and her guy to make. Their cake-baker will be able to give lots of good ideas about flavors that would pair well with the berries. Ask to go along for the cake-testing, MOB!

Share this idea with your little bride-to-be and her groom, Mother of the Bride, and see if this might be the answer to their cake needs. After all, it’s a healthy choice with all that fruit included, right?!

*You might also like to read Spring Wedding Cake: Cherry Blossoms, Wedding Cake Idea: A Crepe Cake!, and Wedding Cake Roundup.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Sonya Natasha, Creative Commons License